25 Apr 2014: Prague

My backpacking adventure has come to a close (though comically, my new backpack actually cannot close with its already busted seams from the strenuous travel days. Poor thing). Fifteen days later, I’ve seen four countries, attempted to speak four languages, dealt two currencies and took 800+ photos, all while eating local food and living out of my school backpack. My last stop was Prague. I took a morning bus from Berlin and judging from the bus company’s website and my typical cheap accommodations choices, I hadn’t expected more than a seat. Instead, I was offered the choice of hot chocolate, coffee or tea (twice!) and had movies on my own television with headphones they would provide. So I’m living it up, drinking cocoa and watching Dark Shadows as we roll through Germany. It may be the little things that make me feel like royalty, but I’m okay with that. We drove through Dresden only to make me wish I would have spent a day there as my heart actually fell seeing it from across the river. I haven’t stepped foot in the town, but I’m certain I could live there. I’ll be back for you though, Germany. No worries. The Czech Republic’s landscape of rolling hills (small mountains?) led me to Prague where I met Rachel outside of her flat and we spent the evening unwinding from travel. Before bed, she said, “I can’t wait to get a full night sleep.” Next thing I know, Rachel and six Czech officers are waking me at 3am due to a mishap with a roommate that involved some yelling, quite a few threats and a fire extinguisher. The officers escorted us to a couch in a neighbor’s flat, but the meetings, emails and frantic phone calls to persist over the next 48 hours led to heaps of stress and an eviction. “Welcome to Prague,” they told me.

So without sleep, I set off in the morning to do the free walking tour of the city. I had no idea how far the Czech Republic has come, being 9 different countries in the last 600 years and all without ever moving. I found it hard to keep up with the facts, but the Old Town Square Tower with the astronomical and moving clock was unreal and the architecture in the city was some of my favourite. In any direction, at least five different styles could be seen. I ate a traditional Czech meal of Svíčková (beef with bread dumplings and a cream sauce) before wandering the town on my own. I was met with a thunderstorm while climbing up to Prague Castle, but it was one of those storms you don’t mind being caught in. I watched it from several awnings and overhangs, but ended up absolutely drenched in attempts to change my vantage point. Getting to see the city without tourists and in a thundery haze was quite nice. I met Rachel and some of her friends for a burger at Dish that evening. And it had a portobello on it, just for you Grandma Gerber. Also, a Parmesan chip. Brilliant.

I climbed up Petrin hill on Wednesday morning which was a highlight of my time in Prague. It turned into more of a hike than I expected and I was drenched in the sweater I stupidly chose for the day. It happened to be the only top I had left that didn’t smell toxic from being in my backpack for two weeks with my rotting socks. The view was great and the little Prague Eiffel Tower was kinda cute, but I wasn’t about to sit and drink wine in front of it. There were some manicured gardens, old city walls and some grown, seemingly sober and competent adults doing it on a park bench in broad daylight. So I ran fast down the hill, continued on to wander the streets, buying fresh strawberries from the market, a slice of strudel cake from a cafe and little souvenirs. After Rachel got out of class she asked, “Want to go to the river and drink beer?” So that we did. Followed by Thai food because why not.

And just like that, it was time to return to London in the morning. Though, I don’t think I can be upset about having to go home at this point. Each time I return back to London is a better reminder of what I live among. These days spent traveling, both with my mum and solo, have included sights and experiences that I am so, so fond of. Some of my most favourite nights were spent with my mum under the Eiffel Tower and some of my great memories are in cities I never thought I’d make it to in my lifetime. I’ve learned a few new words in a few languages and I’ve made some friends I’ll see again in another country because that’s the nature of this sort of thing. I know I’m very fortunate to travel this way and it is completely worth the stress of hostel bookings, plane tickets, airport transportation, metro tickets and the sheer agony of being alone in a foreign city on the first day without language, currency, directions, food, beer and wifi. I’ve learned to blend in when needed, research before I go when necessary, to live even simpler than I have been and that beer is cheaper than water on the Czech Republic (so from a financial standpoint, no one can be upset that I’m slightly dehydrated).

I am going back to London knowing that my days are limited in the city, but even a lifetime wouldn’t be enough in London. I never would have guessed I would fall madly in love with that city. Coming up, a few day trips, a final art exhibition and three more countries. But for now, I’m right where I need to be.

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Trusty travel companions

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View of Prague from Petrin Hill

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Prague Castle

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Prague from Petrin Hill

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Prague, near the castle just after the storm

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Architecture near Prague Castle

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Strudel Cake!

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Trdelnik pastry

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Entrance to Charles Bridge

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View of the Church of the Virgin Mary Before Tyn

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Frank Gehry’s Fred & Ginger House

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Looking into Old Town Square

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Overlooking Prague

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